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Chance at .500 squandered in Seattle

by Josh Newman
It’s always one of the following three scenarios: all pitching and prolific offense, no pitching and no offense, or solid offense backed by no pitching.

Last week was no exception. In their three game series with Seattle, the Twins had one of their best all-around games May 8 in an 11-0 thrashing of the Mariners in the opener of a three-game series. They had one of their worst all-around games May 5 in a 9-0 loss at Detroit. And they had solid offense but sub-par pitching in a 9-6 victory over Seattle in Game 2 of that series.

With so many games in which one side has had to be nearly perfect for a chance to win, it is actually a bit miraculous that the team stands at 15-17 and only three games out of the Central Division lead to close last week.

A split with the Tigers saw a masterful performance by starting pitcher Francisco Liriano followed by a sloppy all-around performance in the series finale.

At least Minnesota was able to clear one big hurdle: getting Liriano his first win of the season. Entering the week at 0-4, I had him pegged as one of the team’s biggest underachievers so far. Could this performance be a sign of things to come? He allowed just two runs on four hits and struck out nine in 7.1 innings of work, and the offense racked out 11 hits off of four Detroit hurlers in an easy 7-2 win.

Perhaps they should not even have suited up for Game 2. With a 9-0 loss, one might wonder if the team in fact did even show up. The defense sure didn’t: they committed three errors. Two consecutive errors in the second inning led to two unearned runs that were sent in by a missed attempt at a diving catch by right fielder Michael Cuddyer. In addition, starter Nick Blackburn was nailed for a career-high nine earned runs in just 3.1 innings of work.

Liriano’s second start of the week was not as successful. In fact, whenever a pitcher surrenders the same number of runs as innings pitched, he should not win at all. Seriously, five earned runs in five innings? Okay, so even great pitchers have off nights. On this night, however, he earned the win because the offense knocked Mariners starter Felix Hernandez out of the game after four innings. Catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau hit back-to-back homers, and Cuddyer added a three-run blast for the Twins in their 9-6 win.

However, much like their starting pitchers throughout the course of the year, they were unable to finish the job and get the sweep. Seven shutout innings from Nick Blackburn and a pair of runs seems like the Twins were destined for the sweep. I guess the bullpen was not informed of one little thing: don’t start what you can’t finish. Immediately following Blackburn’s departure, relievers Jose Mijares and Jesse Crain gave up four runs and foiled a conceivable Twins victory. The Twins never recovered and lost 5-3.

Frustrated?
Okay, I’ll get to the point. This writer has aged about 20 years watching this team fumble ground balls, jump after and miss fly balls, and watching two out of every three starting pitcher fail to throw the ball over the plate. I am pulling my hair out as we speak while thinking of ways to tastefully voice my frustration. I repeat what I said in an earlier entry: The Twins indeed have turned some heads this year – in the other direction, that is. Perhaps Ron Gardenhire should get back to fundamentals. Going 3-4 every week will have them going only one direction: backwards. And it will have season ticket holders going one place only: to the exits. Maybe even to the phones to refund their season tickets.

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